Key Matchups: Army vs. Ball State

The eighth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 158, 1-6) and the Middle American Conference West Ball State Cardinals (Sagarin 83, 5-3.) Army leads the all-time series 2-1, but the Cardinals beat the Cadets last year 48-21 in Muncie.

Background
The eighth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 158, 1-6) and the Middle American Conference West Ball State Cardinals (Sagarin 83, 5-3.) Army leads the all-time series 2-1, but the Cardinals beat the Cadets last year 48-21 in Muncie. Ball State becomes bowl eligible with three games remaining on their schedule with a win. Army hopes to gain some positive momentum going into the Commander-in-Chief round robin with Air Force next week.

Last Week
At YPSILANTI, MI – Army gave up 577 yards, turned the ball over twice and the Eagles earned their first victory of the season. The Cadets are now 0-3 versus MAC teams in 2012.

Last week we warned that Eagles had found a running back in Bronson Hill. He gained 185 yards on 26 carries and caught 3 passes for 67 yards and had 2 touchdowns on the day. We also told of Tyler Benz, who was 19 for 31 for 369 yards and 5 touchdown passes. Tight end, Greg Hoskins, had 7 receptions for 158 yards including several third and fourth down and long conversions, he also scored a touchdown.

Nate Combs was injured and unable to play. Geoffrey Bacon had a great game, but he was unable to do it alone. Freshman safety Brandon Fusilier-Jeffries continues to make a ton of tackles (7 solo, 7 assisted), but often he is the difference between a big play and a touchdown.

On offense, the team looked very good. With Larry Dixon out, the Eagles focused on Raymond Maples – this allowed Trent Steelman to rush for 212 yards on 16 carries and 2 touchdowns. It looks as though Steelman will become the all-time leading touchdown scorer for Army in the next couple of games. He is tough and determined and has earned his place in the Army Sports Hall of Fame. With the pressure that he puts on himself to lead this team to victory, he sometimes tries to do too much. Late in the first half, Steelman raced to the goal line. There was no defender between him and another touchdown, yet he stumbled and fumbled the ball. Eastern Michigan recovered and marched 93 yards to go into the half up by 11 rather than down by 4. Hayden Tippet filled in well for Dixon and had 74 yards on 8 carries.

We suppose that we will not see Jarred Hassin much more this season. This is a shame, as he was a talented and inspiring player. We don't know if his back injuries reduced his effectiveness, or even if they affected his ability to participate in the program anymore – rumors ran wild this week that he had quit the team - but it seems as though a potentially all-time great Army fullback is sitting on the bench. There were also rumors of major dissention between the head coach and a number of his upper class team "leaders" whose roles have been diminished for one reason or another, at least one of whom may have voiced his displeasure with RE briefly via Twitter. Of course, consistently disappointing performances will do that to a team – tear it apart from within. It gives the impression that the head coach has lost his team, but in all fairness, it hardly seems that some disgruntled griping has anything to do with for the exceptionally poor quality of play that we have seen this year, right from week one. We have our own theories why this situation has deteriorated the way it has. We dare say it has much more to do with the way the entire football operation is structured, from the Supe, Dean of Admissions, Dean of Academics, and AD all the way down to the equipment managers. We believe that if Ellerson has been unable to succeed with the support he had at the time of his hiring, then nobody could possibly succeed in this job, not without a major shakeup of the football program's chain of command, and not without a thorough review of the way the players are trained and handled in-season.

At Mount Pleasant, MI – The Cardinals rolled up 464 yards, held onto the ball for 35 minutes and were able to beat the Fighting Chippewa 41-30. Ball State spread the ball out very well, gaining 233 yards on the ground and 231 in the air. Keith Wenning was intercepted once, but also had a touchdown throw. Jahwan Edwards ran for 128 yards and Barrington Scott ran for 99 yards and had two touchdowns. The Cardinals gave up 446 total yards, but only 107 on the ground.

What to look for?
The Cardinals have a very balanced offense. They average 480 yards and 34 points a game. This team runs the ball nearly 60 percent of the time and are led by (5-10, 230) Jahwan Edwards who has 800 yards on the season. Quarterback Keith Wenning is very good. He has completed two-thirds of his passes for 2,236 yards this season for 15 touchdowns. He has a quarterback rating of 131 – which is not good for the Black Knights. Army's is the most porous defense that they have faced this season. With Combs still out, it looks like another big burden for Fusilier-Jeffries.

Ball State does give up nearly 35 points a game and they are susceptible to the run. Army will move the ball against Ball State, but as was the case last week, they will need to score nearly every time to stay in this game.

This will be a real character check for this staff and team. If they roll over against the Cardinals, a 1-11 season becomes very likely. The calls for change are beginning to resonate and will only get louder, contributions and attendance will only get weaker. This really is a pivotal game for this program.

Ellerson's teams seem to have the ability to regroup after hard losses and we think that they will show up and play a good game. They will need to win the turnover battle and get momentum on their side early, but this is a lot to expect of a 1-6 team with the worst defense in the country, and one of the worst defenses we have ever seen. We haven't forgotten that they pulled out an astonishing victory over Boston College just a few weeks ago– we saw them do it, so we know they can do it - but Ball State will have to bring the same kind of poor, disinterested effort this week that BC did for that to happen again.

Who is favored?
Ball State is favored by 5 points

Final Score – Ball State 48 – Army 35
(Predictions this year 1-6)
Game will be shown on CBS College Sports Network

Picks from the Ridge
(Predictions this year 5-4)
BYU +2.5 @ Georgia Tech
Maryland +1.5 @ Boston College
Oregon State -4.5 @ Washington

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